According to the US Census, I live in our nation's most diverse city. Too often this "diversity" claim masks the great social, ethnic and especially economic divides in our city. "Diversity" describes our fabulous food and inspiring mix of languages and origin countries but too often pretties up the lack of voice and representation still too skewed white and rich. Pride in "diversity" can hide the disparities of funding among schools within the same school tax district and lax regulation of worker wages and our still high numbers of children with no health insurance. I've written about the danger of "diversity's becoming an elegant accessory draped over our super-fund cleanup sites and hate-spouting state officials -- "diversity" as "diversion" from persistent problems.
But today I embrace that word "diversity" for the robust and exciting city it conveys: a doctdor from Pakistan, teacher from Colombia, business owner from Iran, chef from Oaxaca, neighbor from China, Guatemalan maker of fabulous farmers' market soups, an Italian child psychiatrist and a store clerk from Russia. Friends from almost every state and students whose hometowns spread out like map weights across this country and many others.
Yesterday I heard from a teacher who takes his students to a different country each summer. Four students can't go on the World War II history tour of Europen this summer: they are DACA and can't risk not being able to come home. Our universities and our medical center (the world's largest) are checking on every international student and employee, who regardless of official papers and permissions, may have their families, their careers, their contributions to our community threatened by a president who doesn't know they are people, they are welcome, they are needed.
Our embarrassment and shame at the "immigrant and refugee" bans (not, of course "Muslim bans") need to be expressed within our local "diverse" communities, but even more to our policymakers and to the world. I have no new words to express the tears that sprang to my eyes when news of the ban was broadcast, nor to express my joy at the spontaneous outpouring of opposition from our people and support from attorneys, churches and others. So in the absence of new words of my own, I urge to you to read the words of Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State, immigrant, and advocate for a democracy in which "diversity" means not just a lot of differences in one place, but true inclusion, empowerment and justice. I'm grateful to Angela Valenzuela for posting this strong message on her blog:
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